ABC NEWS BREAKFAST
THURSDAY, 22 OCTOBER 2015
SUBJECT/S: Labor’s positive plan for the sharing economy; Marriage equality.
VIRGINIA TRIOLI: Labor is today unveiling its policy on the sharing economy and Shadow Assistant Treasurer Andrew Leigh joins us now from Parliament House. Andrew Leigh, good morning. Thanks for making time for us.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Pleasure, Virginia.
TRIOLI: Let's stay with that example of Uber, the ride-sharing service, Airbnb and the like. What sort of regulation should be in place?
LEIGH: Well Labor's view is that we need regulations that maintain good standards but also encourage new firms to emerge. We'd like the next Uber or Airbnb to be an Australian firm. So we want to create an environment where sharing economy companies like Pawshake – the petsitter – and Parkhound – that solves parking problems – can emerge. To do that, we need to make sure that the sharing economy abides by a basic set of principles. Bill Shorten and I will be running through those principles later today but they include making sure that firms pay appropriate wages and conditions; that Australian safety standards are upheld; that sharing economy firms pay their fair share of tax; and that people with disabilities have more opportunities rather than fewer as a result of the sharing economy.
TRIOLI: Mr Leigh, when you say you'd like them to be Australian firms, what do you mean by that? If they are multinational companies that have a branch here and if they are subject, as they would be just logically, to wages and conditions that are in place here, to the safety conditions that are in place here, to the tax regime that is in place here, is that not enough? Do you want an additional layer of regulation over the top of that?
LEIGH: Well let me give you a couple of concrete examples. In the ACT, you've got a Territory Labor Government which will now be the first in Australia to regulate the entry of Uber. It has done that by dropping taxi licence fees and establishing a set of rules that will work for any ride-sharing application that comes on the market. In Victoria, the government's Disaster Relief Taskforce is partnering with Airbnb so that if there is a natural disaster and people want to step-in and offer a free room in their homes to somebody who is displaced by a bushfire, for example, then Airbnb will provide a platform to do that. But I want an environment, too, in which Camplify – the Newcastle based caravan sharing service – is able to grow and expand, and is able to get the insurance that it needs to make its business model work.
TRIOLI: Sure, but that doesn't really answer the question of whether you believe that in addition to the regulatory environment in which all of those companies are going to have to operate anyway, whether there needs to be an additional layer specific to the sharing-economy. Do you believe there needs to be legislation specific to those, in addition to the ones that I mentioned before?
LEIGH: I think you want even rules across the board. So if we take the example of the way in which the ACT -
TRIOLI: Just to jump in again, I'm sorry but time is tight – it’s about standardising those laws between states, territories and the Commonwealth, rather than adding a new lot?
LEIGH: To the extent that we can standardise, I think that's terrific. One of the challenges that Parkhound, for example, faces is that they have to deal with a whole range of different regulations from local councils. They're solving a problem all of us would like solved – that there's not enough parking places when you need to go to big sporting events or a busy city. To the extent that a State Government can step-in and standardise the rules, we get more parking places and we see an Australian sharing economy business prosper.
TRIOLI: Okay, so we know that tax reform is on the agenda of the government at the moment anyway. Do any of your announcements today go to taxation arrangements?
LEIGH: We certainly believe that sharing economy services should pay their fair share of tax. To their credit, I'm yet to meet a sharing economy provider that thinks the only thing they do better than existing businesses is to dodge tax. We ought to be able to actually have people comply better with their tax obligations, for example through the online platforms that records their transaction. At the end of the year, they can tell people what their tax obligations are. But the regulations need to move with the times and we hope that the government will take up Labor's invitation to work together to get the rules right for the sharing economy.
TRIOLI: Alright just before I let you go, one other question on an issue that has emerged today. Warren Entsch is wanting to see the issue of marriage equality renewed and reviewed. He is proposing that there be a vote in Parliament and if that matter gets through Parliament, then it would be ratified, if you like, by a plebiscite that is then put before the Australian people. That’s a way to move it on a little more quickly. What do you make of that?
LEIGH: I am a little baffled by the Coalition's proposal on a plebiscite. A plebiscite, as you know, isn't binding on the Parliament and Malcolm Turnbull yesterday didn't say whether or not his MP's would be forced to vote the same way as the Australian people did in the plebiscite.
TRIOLI: Well hence Warren Entsch's intervention. He's saying let the Parliament vote and then you back it up with the people's plebiscite.
LEIGH: Well one of the challenges of that is that it is effectively one Parliament binding a future Parliament if we pass the laws now and then had them come into effect in the next term of Parliament. It seems a fairly clunky way of dealing with the problem that Australia is now the last advanced English-speaking country that has a nationwide ban on same-sex marriage. Let's just get on and do it. Let's allow people who are in love to marry who they wish. I've got heterosexual friends who won't get married until same-sex marriage becomes a reality. So far from this weakening traditional marriages, I think that it would in fact strengthen them.
TRIOLI: Andrew Leigh, good to talk to you today. Thanks so much.
LEIGH: Likewise, thank you.
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